SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
Authorities in the Indian capital have sealed off the premises of Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary movement, claiming a religious gathering it organised from March 13-15 ignored the threat of the coronavirus.
The Delhi government also asked police on Tuesday to file a criminal case against the group, one of the country’s oldest Islamic organisations, for flouting guidelines and not maintaining social distancing.
Authorities said around 2,000 people were found to be staying at Markaz Nizamuddin, the New Delhi headquarters of the group, founded in 1926.
Delhi’s Health Minister Satyender Jain told reporters that 24 people staying there had tested positive for the coronavirus so far.
Seven people who attended the congregation have reportedly died, according to local media reports. Delhi police on Tuesday said they had served notice to the organisers.
Rumours against Jamaat
Tablighi Jamaat denied accusations it had broken social distancing laws, saying it was forced to accommodate visitors stranded by the lockdown announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, with just four hours’ notice.
In a press statement, the group said:
“A rumour started gaining ground across social media that allegedly people affected with COVID-19 are present in Markaz. It is also being circulated that certain deaths have occurred due to the same.
“Under such compelling circumstances there was no option for Markaz Nizamuddin but to accommodate the stranded visitors with prescribed medical precautions till such time that situation becomes conducive for their movement or arrangements are made by the authorities,” the statement said.
However, Delhi legislator Atishi tweeted that strong action should be taken against the organisers because “Delhi government orders had expressly forbidden gatherings of more than 200 persons on 13th March itself”.
According to a senior official quoted in The Hindu newspaper, the Ministry of Home Affairs is set to blacklist hundreds of preachers from Indonesia that attended the congregation.
“They came here on a tourist visa but were participating in religious conferences. This is violation of visa rules. We are going to blacklist around 800 Indonesian preachers so that in future they are not able to enter the country,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Yasmin Kidwai, a councillor from the Nizamuddin area where the congregation took place, asked why the government had issued visas to them in the first place. “We had enough time to prepare for coronavirus,” she told Al Jazeera. “Why weren’t visa restrictions in place?”
Delhi-based author Rana Safvi also accused the Tablighi Jamaat of being “irresponsible”. “Was Tablighi Jamaat aware of the Delhi government’s order? it is highly irresponsible of them to have gone ahead with it,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I am worried, therefore, about two things. The spread of the virus, and the spread of Muslim bashing. So far most of the media had nothing much to talk about, they have suddenly got a lot of material,” she said, referring to the media’s negative portrayal of Muslims.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had previously been criticised for the manner in which Modi announced the lockdown just hours ahead of it being imposed.
The timing of the announcement left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers stranded in cities, forcing many to attempt to walk hundreds of kilometres to their villages. Pictures of stranded workers showed Modi’s government in a poor light.
The congregation at Markaz Nizamuddin has since provided an opportunity for BJP government supporters to attack Muslims for spreading the virus.
Soon after reports of the gathering hit the headlines, the hashtag #CoronaJihad trended on Twitter, with many tweets blaming Muslims for the spread of coronavirus in India.
Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, tweeted that the incident “will become a convenient excuse for some to vilify Muslims everywhere, as if we created and spread COVID around the world”.
Many people on social media also pointed out that similar gatherings by people of majority faiths did not attract such prompt attention by authorities.
Two days after the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, a large number of Hindu pilgrims gathered in Maharashtra’s Sai Baba temple.
Days later, in the central Madhya Pradesh state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the ruling BJP took an oath as the chief minister surrounded by a large crowd, ignoring Modi’s message of social distancing.
A day after Modi announced the lockdown, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, had organised a group religious ceremony in Ayodhya town in an apparent violation of lockdown rules.
‘Diversion from migrants issue’
Writer and journalist Saba Naqvi told Al Jazeera the Tablighi incident has given the right-wing government and the media a diversion from the difficulties thousands of migrant workers had been facing since the lockdown began on March 25.
“For the first time, I saw so much attention on poverty or migration workers even in the media. And the Tablighi issue has allowed a diversion,” she said.
“The BJP has taken that opportunity. And it is not even a manufactured case of outrage. There was a class element so far around the lockdown. Now there is a communal element. All the horrors of India are unfolding.”
Senior TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai echoed Naqvi’s sentiment but added that Nizamuddin was a “one-day tragic breaking news story” and that the migrants crisis will “sustain for an extended period”.
“The stories of migrant workers are enduring stories. Their tragedy and their long walks will remain with people,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Hashtags like #CoronaJihad are typical of the Islamophobia,” he said, adding that such social media trends will “actually rebound on those who spread them”.
“Because everybody is hurting today cutting across all boundaries.”
COVID-19: Anambra to fine face masks defaulters N10,000
The Anambra State Government will fine any resident who fails to wear a face mask the sum of N10,000.
This was disclosed by Governor Willie Obiano in a state-wide broadcast to the people of the state.
Obiano also warned traders in the state to keep to the COVID -19 rules or he would shut down the market again.
“We have 69 individuals on home quarantine and two individuals in the facility based quarantine.
“We shall continue to push back at this pandemic until we have reduced its presence in Anambra State.
“We are ramping up our testing capacity to ensure that we slow down the spread of this pandemic in our dear state.
“The Covid-19 Committees that we have set up in wards and local governments across Anambra State are helping us in driving the campaign to every nook and cranny of the state.
He said he had signed the COVID-19 Bill into law, adding that it was now an offence to be seen in the public without a face mask.
“The offence attracts a fine of N10,000 or some hours of community service. I would like to re-emphasize that my administration is determined to enforce this law, adding
“The information we received from different quarters indicate that our people have started lowering their guard on the COVID-19 protocols.
“I have it on good authority that traders in various markets no longer comply with the enforcement of the wearing of face masks and the washing of hands.
” I want to warn that we may consider shutting down the markets if this trend is not halted with immediate effect.
“I have also received similar reports from churches and other religious groups in the state most of whom have discarded the wearing of face masks.
” I urge the leadership of all religious bodies in Anambra State to ensure compliance with the standard protocols of COVID-19 without further delay.”
Covid-19: Brazil records largest daily increase in deaths
Brazil, on Tuesday, recorded its largest daily increase in deaths related to the novel coronavirus, data by the country’s Health Ministry showed.
The country confirmed 1,262 new virus-related deaths, bringing the total toll to 31,199, according to the latest official figures.
Tuesday’s daily jump was the steepest since the first victim was confirmed on March 17, the data showed, surpassing the record set on May 21 of 1,188 deaths in a day.
The ministry also reported almost 29,000 new infections for a total of 555,383 cases.
After the United States, Brazil is the country with the highest number of officially recorded infections worldwide.
Brazil’s death toll is in fourth place globally, behind the U.S., Britain and Italy, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
Seeing as the biggest nation in Latin America is carrying out relatively low levels of testing, the real figure is likely significantly higher.
There have been at least 29,314 coronavirus deaths so far in the country.
In many cities in Brazil, hospitals have reached capacity.
Authorities have set up makeshift clinics in football stadiums.
Meanwhile, a dispute between President Jair Bolsonaro, several governors and congress has paralysed the country.
Right-wing populist leader, Bolsonaro, sees the COVID-19 lung disease as a “mild flu” and has rejected protective measures.
But many state leaders have put in place their own restrictions on movement and public life to stem the spread of the virus.
On Sunday, clashes were reported between Bolsonaro supporters, anti-government protesters and the Police in several Brazilian cities.
COVID-19: Bauchi deputy governor tests positive
The Deputy Governor of Bauchi state, Mr Baba Tela, has tested positive to the novel Coronavirus, a statement issued by the state government revealed on Wednesday.
The statement, signed by Mr Muktar Gidado, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on media to the state governor, indicated that test by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the development.
According to Gidado, Tela, who is also the Chairman, State Task Force Committee on COVID-19, was tested after exhibiting noticeable symptoms of the virus, adding that all his primary contacts had been taken for screening.
“This is to inform the general public that His Excellency, Sen. Baba Tela, Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, was confirmed positive of Coronavirus.
“The confirmation was sequel to a test carried out on him by NCDC when he exhibited noticeable symptoms of the disease.
“He contracted the disease while discharging his onerous responsibility as Chairman of the State Committee on COVID-19.
“Consequently, he has gone into self-isolation in Bauchi and health professionals are properly managing his situation.
“Similarly, samples of all his primary contacts have been taken by NCDC for tests and they are advised to remain in isolation pending the outcome of their results,” Gidado said.
The SSA further stressed that Gov. Bala Mohammad had sympathised with his deputy and solicited for prayers from all for his speedy recovery.
He said that the governor also called on the citizens to adhere strictly to the protocols against the dreaded virus to curtail its spread in the State.
Newsmen report that Bauchi state, as at Tuesday, June 2, had recorded a total 241 cases of COVID-19, out of which 221 had been discharged while eight had died.
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